Chen maintains optimism

Kevin Chen is pictured recovering at his home in Fairmont. Chen will have another surgery Monday to repair his lower left leg after it was severely injured in a hit-and-run accident several months ago in Mankato.

Near the beginning of September, Kevin Chen, a 2017 Fairmont High School graduate, was struck by a vehicle in a hit-and-run accident in Mankato. He had just started his freshman year at Minnesota State-Mankato.

After the accident, Chen was airlifted to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. In the two months since, he has had four surgeries on his left leg and is getting ready to have a fifth on Monday. He will most likely have more surgeries down the line.

“I was in the hospital for 17 days,” Chen recalled.

Unfortunately, he had to withdraw from his first year of college because of the accident.

Right now, Chen is home in Fairmont where he is confined to a medical bed, unable to get around because his doctors don’t want him to put any weight or strain on his left leg. He is also unable to use a walker or wheelchair because of all the metal rods and poles supporting his left foot and what’s left of his lower leg. Chen’s mom has been staying home to help him during the day.

“I wish I had broken an arm instead so I could at least walk,” said Chen, adding, “I’m going to start running. I’ve never run before, but once I can walk, I want to go run a mile every day.”

About 3 inches of bone is missing from Chen’s tibia, right in the middle. In the upcoming surgery, a wire will be put in that will slowly pull the bones together. Chen admits he is a little nervous for this upcoming surgery, just as he has been for the previous ones.

“It’s like waking up and seeing what’s new with your body and what the different pain is,” he said.

Chen was supposed to have this surgery several weeks ago but he developed an infection, so surgery had been delayed until the infection goes away. There is currently an IV in Chen’s arm, and three times a day he needs to inject an antibacterial solution to help prevent any more infections.

When the car pulled away after hitting Chen, it pulled out part of his tibia, along with a lot of skin and muscle from his leg, so Chen has a scar from a previous surgery, about 7 inches long, that stretches from beneath his left armpit down to the middle of his back, where some of his back muscles were removed and put into his shin.

There’s also a skin graft on Chen’s left thigh, where skin was removed and used to cover the new muscles in his shin.

After this surgery, Chen will spend a while in the hospital so he can be monitored, and then he will return home to Fairmont to recover.

“I’m hoping to start physical therapy in the spring,” he said.

He had quite a few visitors while he was in the hospital, and he has had several stop in and see him at home in Fairmont, something he appreciates.

“The worst thing is knowing my friends are out having fun and seeing how their lives are progressing and mine’s kind of stopping for a year,” Chen admitted.

Chen, who has always been active and enjoyed working out, is frustrated to see that he is quickly losing muscle and strength.

“It’s frustrating but being sad about it isn’t going to help at all,” he said.

Chen is looking toward the future, and hopes to start some online classes in the next few months, and then start college again next fall.

Overall, Kevin considers himself to be an optimistic person and his ordeal has proven that is true.

“I could be mad about it all I want, but I just have to accept that my life will be different,” he said.